The last section we dealt with loving and obeying the Lord by obeying His Word. Now, let me hasten to add that obedience to the Lord should not cause us heartburn. 1 John talks about loving the Lord and chapter 5:1-3, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
It should be our joy to obey the Lord in all things. He is our Father and His great love for us should give us joy to know we please Him when we follow His will, not ours. If His commandments aren’t grievous to us then the joy should bound through our lives and within our hearts as we do His will.
Does this mean we won’t experience heartache or that we have to paste a smile on our face and pretend we are something that we aren’t? Of course not! The tears of sorrow and heartbreak will flow for us as it does for unbelievers. The only difference is that the Lord will comfort us in the midst of our sorrows and heartache. He will give us peace while we continue on our earthly pilgrimage. You see, loving the Lord doesn’t mean that we always will do what is right.
The psalmist said in Psalm 37:23-24, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for He upholdeth him with His hand.”
The Lord is with us and will always be there to give us strength in His path. No matter how difficult the way may seem, it’s a lot easier than trying to make it without the Lord. Family and friends will fail but our love should be always on the Lord and following His will. In fact, some of the worst enemies can be those within our own household because they have to live with the guilt and shame of their own sin by watching us seeking to live a life pleasing to Him.
Yes, we will also fail at times and probably respond in ways that are ungodly and not Christ honoring but the difference should be seeking forgiveness despite our failure. Loving the Lord is not mere sentimentality that makes our hearts feel warm and fuzzy on a cold day. We are in the midst of a long, hard battle that won’t end in this life. Part of that battle is following the Lord’s will in every area of life. Put on the whole armor of God, not just part of it.
Psalm 73:25-26 give us a very clear understanding of what the Lord should be to us. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? There is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” No matter what the thing or person is here on earth, no one and nothing should mean as much to us as the Lord, whether in heaven or earth. He is the only true God and worthy of all praise, honor, and glory! Love the Lord at all cost because He is the only One who can satisfy you!
In this day and age we hear all kinds of things about love with most of it not being true love but lust. Movies are shown that depict love as being selfish and demanding or controlling and manipulative.
The reality of love is that it’s unselfish and goes out of its way to help the other person. 1 Corinthians 13. Christ is the true depiction of love. He left His throne in heaven to become a man and die, be buried and rise again for our sins. He didn’t ask for anything in return because there is nothing we could give Him that would pay Him back for all He’s done for us. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
Yet while the Lord was on the earth He made the comment, “If you love Me, keep My commandments!” John 14:15. As we seek to go through daily life do we really show our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we love Him? What would we have to do to show Him our love?
Obedience is such an unusual concept in this day and age. If you watch many parents you will see the children go out of their way to hurt their parents. Granted, some of the parents deserve it because they encourage their children to be disobedient and ungrateful. What about those, though, that are trying to teach their children to be obedient? This is an age where everyone does what is right in their own eyes, many children dishonor their parents, and so many think that no one should be able to tell them what to do.
True believers are expected to obey the Lord, to keep His commandments if we love Him. It doesn’t get any clearer than this. We, who are true believers, are children of the Lord and, that being the case, we must be willing to honor and obey our Heavenly Father. He is first and foremost the One to whom obedience is necessary and, in so doing, we show forth our worship and praise towards Him.
You might say, “I do obey Him. My heart tells me when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” No, we can’t go according to what our hearts say as they are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. It is important for us to read and obey God’s Word as that is the guideline He gave us to follow. I know I’ve stressed before but it’s worthy of notice within our lives to show forth our obedience and love for the Lord. Do we love Him? If so, then let us keep His commandments in a way that shows Him that we do love Him.
We live in a time of beginnings of peril within our country. The church is falling apart and grows more apostate each day, our culture, which was built on the Word of God, hates true believers and is willing to sacrifice them on the altar of tolerance. We are regularly put into a position of either stand for the Lord or stand with the world. People we thought loved the Lord have fallen prey to the lies of Satan and some may even have turned on true believers. We see children, who’ve been raised their whole life being taught the Word of God, stray to churches that teach sweet little nothing’s and tickle their ears.
We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.
As we go through each day we are called upon to make decisions based on the Word of God, we are called to be Berean Christians. We are called upon to discern right from wrong and good from bad. Sadly, we see more and more people dropping out of true Christianity to lie in bed with the deceiver and his minions. Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What is happening? Who can we trust? How do we know who is right and who is wrong?”
When this blog was first started it was named Defending Contending, which was very appropriate as it was begun so false prophets posing as true prophets would be called into question and revealed for what they truly were. Yet, the question should be asked, “Why don’t true believers know and discern who is a wolf in sheep clothing and who is truly the man of God?” Sometimes even we, as true believers, are fooled by someone who, we think, is truly loving and serving the Lord. The truth is that we won’t always know who is true and who is a tare. Some of them will be hidden for a time until the great harvest.
Yet we find that the Word of God is very clear. Heb 5:11-14, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We are a people who refuse to study the Word of God. We “pay those people” to study it for us and, heaven forbid, that they should say something we don’t want to hear.
Brothers and sisters, it is our responsibility to study God’s Word to find out if what we are being taught is according to God’s Word. Even on this blog now called Truth in Grace, it’s important to realize that we are all sinners and can be led astray. We are in the midst of that time where Amos tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” There is a famine in the land and it’s not a physical one. We have a famine of God’s Word but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have the Word of God available to us so we can read and study it daily. We aren’t so far gone that we can’t know what is said.
Granted, there are grey areas within the Word of God that aren’t clearly known so some things can be believed one way or another. When it is clear and concise, though, it’s important for us to realize that God expects His children to follow His commands. Obedience with joy is very important for true believers. We can’t be obedient if we don’t know what the Lord tells us to do. It’s time for each of us to find out and learn to be discerning not just wait for someone else to do it for us.
As I’ve gone through my life I’ve found many times that my heart has been hardened against the things of the Lord. Before the Lord drew me to Himself, my conscience was pretty much hard and cold except every once in a while. Then, I would have a glimpse of what would happen if I continued on the path I was traveling.
After salvation, I was still quite a bit like a worldling in most everything. As I watched my husband and learned a lot from him, who’d been saved for awhile, I began slowly changing in areas. He read a lot of theological books and I wanted to learn so I began reading them. There were many times I stopped reading, struggled for awhile and then grow hard and cold again. The Lord sent trials my way and I’d realize how cold I’d gotten. I had been so immersed in my own self that I never even saw what had happened and the stagnation within my own life. My heart was no longer tender towards the Lord and it would take awhile to return to tenderness towards the Lord.
Many churches we went to made a call for the conscience but not a call that would bring my heart to a tenderness towards the Lord. It was normally done to make me feel guilty over something I was doing (or not doing) that would prove to the leadership that I wasn’t spiritual enough. Some of the things were valid points but most weren’t.
Sadly, a lot of churches and even believers can be very dictatorial over what is spiritual and what isn’t. We find, in evangelicalism, that rules or the lack thereof seems to take precedence over Biblical truth. So many churches that claim to be preaching the truth only tend to preach a portion of it. It’s easy to add a little error to truth but a little error makes the truth nonexistent.
The example Mark Anthony Escalera used about the barrel of apples is prime. If you have a barrel of apples and one is poisoned how will you know which one to choose? You might grab the first one and it could be clear of the poison but how will you know? Eventually you will grab the wrong one and pay the price.
So, how do you know which church has the poison, the error mixed in with the truth, and which doesn’t? Well, the Word of God is there for our learning and, as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the Lord, we will have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14. The Word of God has both truth and principles to follow in our lives. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” The Holy Spirit makes it plain to us.
The poison can apply to either churches that add extra to God’s Word or say that God’s Word is irrelevant and you can do whatever you want or that all roads lead to heaven. As we study God’s Word regularly and feast on His truth, let us be mindful to exercise our senses to discern good and evil. So many are headed in a direction that goes contrary to God’s Word because they refuse to read and refuse to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in such areas as is important for their walk with the Lord. May we be of that number who “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
As we journey in this life towards the next, our hearts need to be tender towards the Lord. The strength of tenderness towards the Lord is where our relationship with Him grows. As we desire to do His will as well as do it, our hearts are exercised in obedience towards Him. Next time you visit a church the questions should not be — What can I get out of this? Or…is the music my style? Do they have great programs here? How long do services last!
Instead, ask these questions, Is this church teaching the Word of God in its entirety? Am I seeing the sin within my life and being convicted of it? Am I becoming more like the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Word of God? Am I able to discern if the leaders are teaching truth or error? May each of us be always tender towards the Lord.
One of the things I am passionate about is closing the gap between Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers within the body of Christ. We have become so segregated in our roles that it is almost as if they never overlap. The Pastor is in charge of the sheep, and the Evangelist is in charge of bringing the lost sheep into the fold. My dear readers, this is wrong! Just as equally wrong is the idea that the Evangelist is incapable of preaching on any other topic other than evangelism, that the burden of biblical counseling should only be left upon the head Pastor, or that Eldership belongs only to the pastors or teachers of the congregation. In accordance with Ephesians 4:11-15, I would encourage all of us to view the roles/gifts these kind of men bring to our local congregations and the universal body of Christ.
I remember an illustration a famous preacher gave one time about how the sheepdog is like the Evangelist that barks at the sheep and the sheep run into the sheepfold. Meanwhile, the sheep are taken care of by the pastor(s) of the flock. I submit to you that I have a better illustration. The Evangelist and the Pastors and Teachers are all sheepdogs. And whether they hold to the office of Elder within a particular church or not, they are going to be called by God to gather the lost sheep, rally the sheep, guide the sheep, discipline the sheep, and keep the sheep bonded in the unity and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. But you know what, they do it all underneath the command of The Shepherd! Don’t miss this point. The Shepherd guides and gives commands to the sheepdogs as to what He wants, in accordance with His will. Let me further explain what I mean.
When I visited a farm in Washington, they were having a Scottish Border Collie demonstration. They showed how these dogs rally the sheep and guide them into the sheepfold underneath the command of the shepherd. The shepherd would whistle and call out commands that would inform the dog to run, lie down, or walk at a specific pace or in a certain direction. It is really a sight to see. I wanted to upload the video I captured, but my phone crashed before I could. So I could only find this video to give some visual illustration of what I am talking about. If you watched the video, you will notice that even though the dog may have some natural instinct on what to do, the sheepdog, nevertheless, must still be underneath the guidance and direction of the shepherd. And this is where Ephesians 4:11-16 comes in.
In the work of the ministry, all those who are gifts to the body as Ephesians says overlap in some way concerning their work among the sheep. I hope to write a book about how the Evangelist needs to be reclaimed and reintegrated back into our local churches, but for now, understand that true Evangelists are not lone wolves. They are sheepdogs, just like the pastors and teachers, among the body that listen to the voice of The Good Shepherd, my Lord Jesus. Although there can be street preachers who may not necessarily be Evangelists in accordance with Ephesians 4 (which isn’t a bad thing), and there may be some who claim to be Evangelists but preach a false gospel and disdain the body of Christ (which is a bad thing), an Evangelist called by God will fulfill their ministry not just by calling the lost to repentance and bringing people into the fold, but by building up the body, perfecting the saints, teaching sound doctrine, and many other things that seem to be only “the pastors job.”
If you think about this, this is one of the reasons why the plurality of Elders is not just biblical, but essential wisdom. I strongly assert that Evangelists are an essential piece on God’s chess board. Even if it was just one man in a small congregation, he should nevertheless do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5). Also, even though an Evangelist may be typified by church planting, missionary work (local or overseas), and/or proclaiming the gospel among the heathen in the local area, the pastors and teachers among us should be doing some of the very same things! And if you’re thinking consistently about the Great Commission, every Christian is called to do their part in the work of making disciples. But regarding our ministerial duty to the body, as sheepdogs, we are called as a team that heeds the voice of our Shepherd to do the joyous labor of serving the body while we endeavor in the very same mission. And whether it is building up the body by adding to the church, or by edifying and perfecting those already added, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must rally together more than ever underneath the sound of Jesus’ voice to protect, guide, unify, and edify His sheep.
I am pleading with those of you who are leaders to stop putting Evangelists in the evangelistic sand box to play outside the church as if that is their sole domain. We can do better than this! There are many Evangelists who are fit to lead and exegete the Scriptures and can provide relief to their fellow sheepdogs. Their heart may lie in a passion for lost souls, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for God’s people either. We may differ in personalities, strengths, and abilities, but so do the many of pastors and teachers in our congregations. Evangelists are no different. We desire to train and build up and lead the sheep just as much as any of the others who are called to the work.
One thing I remember about my time at that farm was all the sheepdogs on the sidelines, chained to the fence, aching to get in the field and work among the sheep. They were zealous, eager, knowledgeable, and would jump up and down while they watched their fellow sheepdogs do the work they were also bred for. But when they were let loose, they all attentively obeyed the voice of the Shepherd. And if either them stepped out of line, or did not obey, they would be disciplined just as much as the sheep. And this applies to all sheepdogs! Some of us have been standing on the sidelines waiting for our local congregations to let us join in on the work for too long. Although anyone called by God will fulfill their calling whether blind leaders recognize it or not, they nevertheless desire to work hand in hand with other sheepdogs. The problem is, we have too many wolves in the pulpits who desire to devour the sheep and not obey the voice of the Shepherd. And unfortunately, there are too many goats that don’t mind serving themselves up on their plate every Sunday.
But that aside, if you are reading this, and you are a leader/elder/pastor among your congregation, I plead with you to join arms with your fellow sheepdog, the Evangelist. I’d love to help you on how you can best approach this. You can contact me here, and we can correspond through email. Or if you are reading this and you feel like you are called as an Evangelist, I would love to help you to study thoroughly what that means and equip you to know how you can support and approach your local church. You can also contact me here. Keep in mind, though, that in some churches, their ecclesiastical government may require that you submit underneath the Eldership. In other congregations, the Evangelist may be appointed as one of the Elders. But whatever government your church may have, one thing remains true – there are sheepdogs that are eager and called to do the work of the ministry within the body of Christ. Some are already obeying the voice of their Heavenly Shepherd. As a church, as leader, as a Christian, will you do the same?
-Until we go home
Paul Washer delivers a profound sermon on the family that should be heard by everyone. I believe this message is so important to believers in the way and manner of family relationships that I will present this series for the next four weeks as your sermon of the week.